Magic Moments Become Golden Memories


This was yet another morning when, at around four o’clock, the mongoose family in the roof space above my bedroom ceiling decided to play their own version of rough and tumble, or seeing who could throw one another furthest. The sky was still dark, but with that hint of grey that foreshadows the sunrise and causes the darker silhouettes of the trees to show clearly against the horizon. Somewhere a cockerel was doing his best to waken all with his clarion cry, and there were sounds of birds waking and adding their music to the dawn chorus.

With the passing of my last few days in Sri Lanka, my friends took me to the Mada Ganga  Sanctuary last Saturday. It was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. A paradise of exotic flora and fauna that enabled me to hold a baby crocodile in my hand and watch it appear to smile as I stroked it under the chin, but I was saddened that the young fisherman had tied a cord round its middle to prevent it swimming away.

Three members of the family enjoyed the experience of a foot-massage courtesy of hundreds of goldfish swimming in some special pens, but I decided that walking along narrow wooden gang-planks was adventure enough for this septuagenarian, and that discretion was better than risking a dowsing by falling in the water because my arthritic knees no longer take kindly to me bending down without something to grab hold of when I need to get up again – their elasticity has passed its sell-by date.

I have taken some great photographs, but will need to download them on to my computer at home before I can share them on my webpage. However, that will be a bonus enabling me to relive every moment captured all over again

Animals Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two


Being woken in the early hours by what sounded like the entire contents of one coconut tree falling on the roof above me, is not the kind of awakening anyone would choose, but the thunderous bumps and thumps were proof that the mongoose family that has chosen to make its home in the space under the roof of my host’s house, were waking up and enjoying their daily dose of furious gymnastics before starting their work for the day; hunting and killing any snakes or rats lurking in the garden before they could enter the house. They would be gone for the entire day, returning at dusk to climb up the wall of the building, via a banana tree, to get back through their entrance hole to sleep off their daytime exertions. Hearing their noisy wrestling matches has reminded me of Rikki- Ticki-Tavi and Kipling’s Just So Stories and what a lot we can learn from animals.

My grandson, like everyone in the family, is a walkover where animals are concerned, so when one of his birds, he keeps pigeons and doves, was being systematically bullied and persecuted by its fellows, it was taken into the house where it quickly became domesticated (as far as birds can be) and accepted by the elderly dog, another rescued refugee, to such an extent, that soon pigeon was taking a daily bath in the dog’s drinking bowl. When it became apparent that dog didn’t mind, grandson decided that providing an extra water bowl, exclusively for the daily ablutions, might be worth a try. It’s worked, as pictures put on Facebook by my grandson have proved.

This reminded me of a stray kitten I found in the middle of a dirt track almost twenty years ago when I was living in Cyprus. I braked hard when I saw in the car headlights, something move in the road. It turned out to be an un-weaned kitten, perhaps it had wandered away from its mother, but more likely had been dumped by the side of the road, as so many unwanted puppies and kittens were. Picking it up, I quickly dropped it in the lap of my passenger and took it home. We cleaned it up and dribbled warm milk into its mouth, then put it in one of my carrying baskets ( I already had several cats), and hoped it would sleep; it didn’t, but howled all night in the basket by the side of my bed.

All three of my rescue dogs slept on the floor around my bed. The smallest and fiercest, a Cypriot hunting dog called Perdy, although spayed, was fascinated by this latest arrival and was even attempting to lick the kitten through the grill of the basket. Holding my breath I tried opening the door of the basket, and before I could stop her, the wee kitten was snuggling up to Perdy and suckling her empty teats while the dog began a frenzied licking of the tiny body. With peace and quiet restored, we all fell asleep.

When I awoke, I saw one bedraggled kitten that had obviously been licked for hours by one would be canine mum, but who was now hungry and wanting rather more than Perdy could offer. Later, having taken the tiny creature to the vet, I was told that dog’s instinctive licking had saved the kitten’s life as it needed the constant stimulation of her tongue to help it to keep warm; as well as helping with its circulation, the constant licking aided digestion by encouraging the body to expel waste. What had appeared to me to be a near drowning with excessive maternal love, had in fact been a life saving instinct to preserve. Sufficient to say that from day one, Kittypuss was the recipient of canine devotion par excellence from all three dogs, including Rambo the giant German Shepherd.

An Evening Drive


Last night my host suggested a drive to the sea, and perhaps a walk along a beach. We, his daughter, two nieces and I, were chauffeured through the myriad streets in air-conditioned comfort. The three young women sat in the back, and like most young people, were soon indulging in their own conversations interspersed with laughter. I confess I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but the sound of their voices was like pleasant music to my ears. Funny how such sounds are international, crossing all languages and removing all barriers – even surmounting the time barrier, as I found myself remembering a similar situation happening in my own youth, now some sixty years distant.

I have to admit that all my fifty-plus years of driving experience in several countries would not equip me with the skill required to drive on the roads of Sri Lanka where driving in the cities, towns and even villages, is something of a free-for-all with cyclists,  motor-cyclists , and vehicle drivers, vying with each other for their place on the road. Among all these road-users are the intrepid driver/riders of the three-wheeled motorised tri-shaws: motor-cycles with a hooded body extending over the driver and passengers who ride on an  upholstered bench-seat behind him while he negotiates his way, using handlebars rather than a steering wheel which gives him enviable maneuverability, and the ability to turn on a sixpence. I suspect this is a cause of some envy among more conventional drivers who have to obey the conventions and execute that dreaded by learner drivers, three-point-turn using forward and reverse gears in order to change direction, as well as wait for a suitable space in which to perform.

Drivers aim their vehicles and toot their horns to let the driver in front know of their wish to overtake, it’s then a contest to see who intimidates whom into some kind of submission. But it is all done with cavalier panache and good humour, a sort of undisciplined weaving in and out from lane to lane that would leave the traffic-police of UK scratching their heads; the French gendarmes waving in frenetic fury; and cause mild apoplexy to their highly disciplined Swiss or German counterparts.

Sufficient to say, we always get to our destination. Last night was no exception, and I saw the sun set over the Indian Ocean while watching rolling waves chase each other before falling and crashing as white-horses on the sandy beach. I could have done without the three gargantuan bites enjoyed at my expense by some minute blood-sucking insect, but would definitely say the end justified the means.

Sun, Showers, Clouds, and Cobwebs


Jewelled Hammocks? Just spiders' webs filled with raindrops.

Jewelled Hammocks? Just spiders’ webs filled with raindrops.

At this time of year, it is not unusual to be greeted into wakefulness by the sound of rain thrashing the windows, but both yesterday and today, by mid-morning, the sun was gleaming in a blue sky mottled with white clouds. A walk in the garden revealed that spiders had been as busy as the raindrops; their ingenious cobwebs, suspended from every bush, were bejewelled with  sparkling raindrops that suggested the work of Faberge, rather than a small arachnid. Some were slung like miniature hammocks filled with diamonds, while others stretched like sheets of gossamer between one branch tip and another. By mid-day, the sun, blue sky and dazzling displays had vanished; banished into nothingness when the sun disappeared behind grey clouds that led me to think my afternoon stroll down the lane might have to be postponed.

Strange how optimism that seems to flow, filling  every fibre of one’s being when the sun shines, can just as easily take a nose-dive when that same sun disappears behind grey clouds. That’s when not-so-good news by mail, telephone, text, or email can often devastate the one receiving. Somehow, the sad news appears so much worse when the clouds hang overhead. Perhaps that is also why rainbows lift the heart and mind when they appear, like a bridge between earth and heaven; a promise that things will get better.

DSCN0782DSCN0770

 

Getting the Bird


English: Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign A...

English: Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign A Countryside Stewardship Scheme sign near a new stile a Cratfield Suffolk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today I received a post, drawing my attention to the latest directive from DEFRA. That august department intends to promote the culling of hundreds of seagulls at Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire. Bad enough that this facility has been built where it shouldn’t be – in an area of special scientific interest, without bringing further death and destruction to the habitat of some of our rare wildlife. Surely BAE systems have an obligation to find a solution, rather than resorting to such slaughter because they find the birds are a nuisance?

 

English: BAe 146 One of the staff transport pl...

English: BAe 146 One of the staff transport planes at Warton Aerodrome going into land (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Only a week ago, I read how a rare feathered-visitor, a member of the swift family, had met an untimely death in front of hundreds of enthusiastic twitchers, many of whom, having travelled hundreds of miles to the remote Scottish Isles to catch a glimpse of the bird, watched in horror as it was killed by flying into the propellers of a wind-turbine.

It seems nature has no place in the plans of Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Affairs. As our rural environment shrinks ever further, perhaps Mr Paterson should be reminded of some facts before we no longer have a rural environment for him to run.

Slaughtering over five hundred breeding pairs of herring gulls, and even more pairs of lesser black-backed gulls – because they are considered a nuisance, is both nonsensical and unacceptable since all species of gull have suffered a serious decline in numbers over recent years. I thought the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs was about the protection of our environment, not its exploitation by BAE.  Perhaps our seagull friend agrees with the van driver from Wells-next-the-sea.

Gull drool

 

 

English: Wells-next-the-Sea: a political state...

English: Wells-next-the-Sea: a political statement at the harbour I think the owner of this van does not appreciate the work of the government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)